In his book Toward Reality, John Berger says the ideal critic would have “the historical perspective necessary” and “the imaginative appreciation necessary” to see outside one’s moment, the power to stand on the corner of the present and look both ways, assess one’s position in relation to traffic. “But in fact it is impossible.” All the critic can do is look, with painfully inadequate and subjective eyes, at the present. To see the opposite corner, look into it, understand it, and walk towards it without being flattened. And art is a busy street.
Trinie Dalton writes criticism, interviews artists, writes books of fiction, and spearheads artist books, including You Who Read Me with Passion Must Forever Be My Friends by visual and textual artist Dorothy Iannone, out recently from Siglio Press. Dalton exercises a malleable approach to her critical writing, working from ‘the inside,’ articulating the work of artists she knows. She sidesteps the need for speculation by transforming conversations with friends into critical work. But the worries of time, of faithfulness, of the need to be ‘critical,’ don’t abate. For her, criticism is a question of who gets to speak, and the ethical dilemma of having a voice.
Ianonne coined the term ‘ecstatic unity’ to define her artistic practice, and in her essay on Iannone, Dalton elucidates the concept, defining it as an “inversion (& merging) of male and female, muse and maker, sacred and profane, celestial and carnal, submission and dominance, compliment and insult, humor and earnestness,” which could just as easily apply to the chameleon work of the critic. To look at something and keep looking is an endurance test, a cross examination, sensual act, a merging of identities, a hilarious way to spend an afternoon, a leap of faith.
– Patrick Gaughan